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Overall Rating
4.04

Awesome51.39%
Worth A Look: 25.93%
Average: 8.8%
Pretty Bad: 3.24%
Total Crap: 10.65%

13 reviews, 138 user ratings


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Hero (2004)
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by Chris Parry

"The most beautiful looking film I've ever seen... but..."
4 stars

It was inevitable after Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon cleaned up at the box office and awards podium - Hollywood was bound to get financially involved in the Asian film industry and try to create more of the same. And to be fair, all the ingredients for Crouching Tiger II are here - an arty director in Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern), a phenomenal cinematographer in Chris Doyle, and a cast that includes such names as Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen and Crouching Tiger's big discovery, Ziyi Zhang. So it has all the ingredients - but does it taste as good as the original? Quite honestly, no. At least not for a western audience.

Jet Li is Nameless, an assassin sent out to kill three other assassins before they can take the life of his king. Nameless comes home to a hero's welcome after achieving his task and is permitted to sit within a hundred feet of the king as they share a drink and discuss his exploits. As he talks of killing each of the assassins, the king allows him to come twenty feet closer, then twenty more, until the two finally find themselves ten feet from each other. That's when things start going awry for Nameless, as the stories he's been telling in flashback (Rashomon style) begin to unravel.

So who's zoomin' who? Well, really, that's what we're supposed to figure out. And like a bad whodunnit, we really have no chance of doing so because the twists aren't hinted at in any way until they're explained to us. And the fact that those twists have to be explained, rather than shown, should tell somebody in charge that this film is a snake that long ago consumed it's own lower half.

Beyond that, the film's central message (that individuals should abandon their personal ambition for the greater good) is one that western audiences are going to have a little trouble swallowing. In fact, one reviewer in Europe has already dubbed the film "beautifully filmed fascism", and I can see that point of view as valid. To go into it would be to give away far too much of the film, but suffice to say Hero takes such a long time to make it's point, that by the time the point is made you'll have had a long time to think about it.

The performances range from decent to not so decent. Li sounds unlike I've ever heard him before, a sort of dull, whiny drone for most of the film, and the abundance of romance and tears and professed love between the other characters tends to go pretty far over the top, especially as the action scenes tend to contrast them by coming across as cartoonish. A stand-out performance from Daoming Chen, as King Qin, is worthy of note, as what tension there is in the film almost entirely comes from his convincing turn as the misunderstood leader of his province.

The action scenes are great, as they are in any (non Joel Silver-produced) film that Jet Li appears in. Just as in Crouching Tiger, the wirework does tend to go over the top, leaving characters basically floating in slow motion when they should be zipping and leaping, and at times when you should be watching the action the director cuts away to reaction shots that seem to be disguising choreography problems. For the most part you don't care, as the early rematch between Li and Yen is riveting stuff and Maggie Cheung is generally electrifying.

And is there any woman in the world today more attractive than Zhang Ziyi? The Pantene spokesmodel can handle herself with a sword too, which is always handy when you're out on a date and faced with a long line at the Olive Garden.

Acting, script and direction aside, there's one thing about Hero that makes it deserving of Oscars, and that is cinematography. If you'e seen a beautifully filmed movie from Asia in the last few years, there's a great chance the Australian madman Chris Doyle had something to do with it. Doyle's a total freak, but he's also a genius and every frame of this picture is explicit as a result of his undeniable skill. To think he's got another two decades plus in the business has to make you wonder what he'll be capable of with another twenty years under his belt, because right now he's got to be the best in the business by a wide margin. He's the Tiger Woods of the lens set and Hero proves it.

So how does it all wrap up in the end? Well, this is most definitely a film that is worth seeing on a big screen with great sound. The film is a technical marvel, but it does have deficiencies that will wear heavily on those raised in the west. There are many slow periods that add spiritual mood to proceedings, most of which would be far easier for an eastern audience to dig than Vinny from Brooklyn who likes Van Damme flicks and thinks Hooters is an upmarket restaurant. And Miramax knows this.

It's been widely touted that Miramax have told Zhang Yimou to cut a half hour off his 2 hour original cut, and you'd have to think that a large chunk of what will be cut will be the non-action sequences. I don't know if that'll turn out to be a wise move or a heinous injustice, but truth be told there is a little room for Yimou to make cuts without losing too much storyline.

It just seems a shame though, and it seems an even bigger shame to keep this film sitting on a shelf when the rest of the world has already seen it, just so it can be fresh in mind for 2004's Oscar ceremony.

If you're into original cuts, you can find region 0 copies of the Asian release of Hero for sale on the internet easily enough. I'll admit it, that's where I got my hands on the flick, but this really is a film that I'm disappointed I didn't see first on a huge screen. I'll be standing in line for a ticket when it opens in November, but that couldn't possibly beat the thrill of seeing it for the first time on a big ass screen with kick ass stereo sound and an audience that's into it. Jet Li fans will love it. Crouching Tiger fans will love it. Van Damme fans... well, I'm sure there'll be a new Martin Lawrence comedy they can rent.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7701&reviewer=1
originally posted: 05/16/03 19:23:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell a good movie 4 stars
2/20/12 posttoastee One great film! If you did not like it-watch it again. 5 stars
3/22/10 Angelene It's a very interesting movie. I didn't understand it at the start. But later did 4 stars
8/05/09 Steve Hock Great use of color and action! Storm! Storm! Storm! 5 stars
6/20/09 Brad Barrett Awful! I really don't understand what people like about this movie. 1 stars
5/18/08 PAUL SHORTT A SILLY AND BLOATED FABLE THAT TAKES ITSELF TOO SERIOUSLY 1 stars
3/14/08 Alex Zhu I thought it was just fighting. i cried a bit when i understood it 5 stars
4/21/07 fools♫gold See it, you prick. And then see it again if you don't like it. And then again! 5 stars
1/11/07 Jake Cool Cinematography and fight scenes 5 stars
5/09/06 Carolyn Rathburn It was ok, some nice fighting sequences, but not one I would run out and buy 3 stars
4/02/06 Peter De La Rosa Jet finally in a good movie after the Crappy Pne and Cradle to the grave. 4 stars
3/04/06 Ronin yup visually impressive, the story isn't too great though. 4 stars
10/16/05 Quigley music is awesome, fights are awesome, yimou is awesome! this is one heckuva visual blast. 5 stars
10/11/05 Wisamane Booooooooring!!! WAY TO OVERRATED! THIS IS A PIECE OF SHIT MOVIE, THE PLOT IS IDIOTIC!!!!! 1 stars
9/02/05 Tom Burns Awesome fight scenes! 5 stars
9/01/05 ES Unwatchable, set your brains to stun or turn it off 1 stars
8/09/05 jada awesome use of music & visuals to tell story, beautiful film 5 stars
7/23/05 Bad Critic After watching a few minutes, I knew it would suck! 1 stars
7/20/05 Sir Dude Hollywood almost screwed this movie up, bad. Hollywood sucks.Thank you, Quentin Tarantino! 5 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler One of the most beautiful movies ever made. Great music and good story. 5 stars
7/09/05 Moctezuma Damn, these Jap films are seriously overrated 1 stars
7/04/05 ALDO visually impressive film....but the story is weak as hell 3 stars
6/23/05 sally angwin All I can say is maggie cheung you are hot hot hot baby 5 stars
6/22/05 Carolyn Rathburn I am always amazed at how they fly like gravity didn't exist 4 stars
6/13/05 Charlene Javier Simply brilliant. 5 stars
6/11/05 Krisan Graves best part is all the pretty colors..... 3 stars
5/23/05 Hllop An okay martial-arts flick with some cool scenes and narrative structure 3 stars
4/29/05 Naka A wonderful, beautifully shot, hyperintelligent piece of cinema genius. 5 stars
4/23/05 Quigley an awesome movie that doesn't copy LOTR's battles and is a gorgeous, colorful movie. see it 4 stars
4/13/05 Indrid Cold If this was the only movie like this, it would be a stunning masterpiece. But it ain't. 4 stars
3/13/05 Fabri Not my type. BORING STUFF 1 stars
2/10/05 Dan Wtf was this? 1 stars
1/22/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Very fine, story, acting, cinematography and everything else. 5 stars
1/13/05 jada spectacular, pure art, story wise & visually 5 stars
1/09/05 keithers.. Interesting story telling...and plot... 4 stars
1/04/05 t-1000 bullshit; bruce lee would be rolling with laughter in his grave! 1 stars
12/29/04 Mrwill to zel, because you are stupid!!! you don't anything about martial art, so just shut up 5 stars
12/25/04 Zel WTF? That was awful... Why can they fly? Boring movie!!! 2 stars
12/24/04 Natalie Stonecipher Actually, Nikolai, all lands have their version of rednecks. Some're probably in this film! 3 stars
12/24/04 Nikolai Excellent and soulful. Not for rednecks and cultureless cretins 5 stars
12/23/04 Hilary Adamson Rich cinematography; pretty boring story or lack thereof. 3 stars
12/11/04 Al Guy Visually intriguing, but not what I expected. 4 stars
12/04/04 tatum Often lovely, but I had Crouching Tiger on the brain the entire time 4 stars
12/03/04 Graham Disappointing on the human-drama front. No CTHD. 3 stars
11/24/04 Maalstrom great visual style 5 stars
11/21/04 Alan Liddle Fantastic cinemaphotography! Stirring. 4 stars
11/09/04 Alaric L Visually stunning, but the movie overall was imbalance 4 stars
10/28/04 The Gaffer ONe of the most interesting styles of story telling 4 stars
10/23/04 Nikolai Excellent and soulful. Not for rednecks and cultureless cretins 5 stars
10/20/04 Vinod Absolutely breathtaking visuals and a good storyline. beautiful music touching ur emotions. 5 stars
10/18/04 Leong Sorry, hate the movie 1 stars
10/15/04 Pete One of the worst movie I've ever seen 1 stars
10/07/04 J Burrows Very disappointing, empty, pompous eye-candy 1 stars
10/05/04 Asian girl Artful, puzzling and enchanting. 5 stars
10/02/04 someone beautiful...but agree with the fascist fairy tale comment..total bs 4 stars
9/22/04 none terriblly stupid martial arts scenes (way too much flying), but otherwise awesome 4 stars
9/22/04 Al Guy Beautiful, but not satisfying. See it for the artwork. 4 stars
9/21/04 Some Person It was ok, but I hate the crouching tiger hidden dragon effects...somewhat disappointed... 3 stars
9/17/04 Kyle Wellcome Great Cinematography.. 4 stars
9/16/04 Kristina beautiful but boring story 4 stars
9/14/04 jeff awsome movie. beautiful cinematography. more like a martial arts show. 5 stars
9/13/04 James ewwwww~ 1 stars
9/11/04 gromm Wonderful movie, and peek at eastern sensibilities. The colours have meaning, go look it up 5 stars
9/10/04 Munchie8 I expected Jet Li and some action... not a love story... disappointed 3 stars
9/10/04 Sarcastro Satan seduces. If this movie were about Stalin, would we be as impressed? Fascist fairytale 1 stars
9/10/04 Sophos This movie Rocks! 5 stars
9/10/04 Nessus Visually marvelous, but it seems like the "hero" falls for bad-guy logic 4 stars
9/08/04 Naka Thrilling, undercurrent of genius beneath the action. Glorious filmmaking. 5 stars
9/08/04 Aaron Smith Exquisite film, breathtaking scenery, astounding choreography. 4 stars
9/07/04 Millard It was engrossing, taking martial arts elements a step further, visually stunning 5 stars
9/07/04 ajay I liked 'crouching tiger...' better. 3 stars
9/06/04 kelly set design, directing, acting, script..... brilliant 5 stars
9/06/04 DM Nice visuals. Not much else. 4 stars
9/03/04 psycho dwarf A classic in a Barry Lyndon sort of way. 5 stars
9/02/04 Alberich Whoa!..i've GOT to get the import DVD!! 5 stars
9/02/04 Naka Thrilling, captivating, ande one of the most beautifully-shot films I've ever seen. 5 stars
9/02/04 michaelb14 a little slow at times, but still awesome 5 stars
9/01/04 jcjs wonderful, clever, beautiful, great action, entertaining to the max 5 stars
9/01/04 Tuan The reviewer is right in that the movie is awesome, but "13th century?" "to kill Qin?" WTF? 5 stars
9/01/04 Quentin Tarantino I, like, wanted everyone to enjoy this. I'm, you know, glad they did. 5 stars
8/31/04 Daniel Beautiful but slightly boring and overhyped 3 stars
8/31/04 dredphul a gorgeous, beautiful picture 5 stars
8/31/04 Dara Crass Totally Cool 5 stars
8/30/04 A F Amazing film with great point. People like the previous one need to READ THE SUBTITLES. 5 stars
8/30/04 Frank Lynch Pretty pictures, but Quin was a murderous tyrant on par with Hitler 1 stars
8/30/04 othree great genre, +story character color elemental action scenic 4 stars
8/30/04 C Excellent! I can't believe they waited two years to release it. 5 stars
8/30/04 King Richard Two words, Party propaganda. 1 stars
8/30/04 jordone Awesome A+ 5 stars
8/29/04 Alex It has excellent action scenes and it is a beautiful looking movie. Definitely great. 5 stars
8/29/04 Heather More proof that some of the best movies aren't made in Hollywood 5 stars
8/28/04 Titus A little more editing, a little less lingering in Act III and this'd be 5 stars 4 stars
8/28/04 JL exquisite cinematography. KungFu battle btw JetLi and DonnieYen is superb! Thumbs up. 5 stars
8/28/04 movie lover Complete CRAP. Shut up you pompas asses who think this film is worth a fart . 1 stars
8/28/04 KingNeutron Beautiful, operatic, flowing, thought-provoking. 4 stars
8/28/04 shannon rich in chinese history outstanding visuals 5 stars
8/28/04 malcolm maybe the best martial arts film ever. the kung fu "Godfather." 5 stars
8/26/04 Anthony G great fight scenes+ good plot=good movie 5 stars
8/17/04 Herolder One of the best HK movies in recent years 5 stars
8/16/04 E Kallio Definitely excellent and ambiguous, mysterious 5 stars
8/11/04 Mike Mcgilvray Beautiful cinematography, great story, easily Jet Li's best ever. A+ 5 stars
8/10/04 kyotomatt Rashomon, but crappy. Try harder next time. 1 stars
8/01/04 sean One of the most gorgeous looking films I have ever seen with a couple of terrific messages 5 stars
7/25/04 Julie Wenders This is a visual feast! 5 stars
7/20/04 allan morph is grea i love the story and the actors hey realyy catch my attention, the swordplay 5 stars
7/17/04 legend A visually stunning film with great action. 5 stars
6/12/04 Raymond Lee a great movie 5 stars
6/01/04 Charlene Javier Excellent! 5 stars
5/31/04 Sun Yat Sen Triumph of the Rashomon. Springtime for Qin Shihuang. Purty propagada. 1 stars
4/29/04 Rudy THE BEST ACTION MOVIE 5 stars
3/16/04 Madeline Gorgeous cinematography & colour schemes tho the morals might be hard to grasp for some! 5 stars
2/21/04 Jeremias Finally a m.arts film with a story. I even reconized some Sun Tzu and Confusius i/t plot 5 stars
12/11/03 Jonathan I loved Crouching Tiger and I would have to say that this movie is ten times better, 5 stars
11/27/03 Bojan Absolutly best movie of the year 5 stars
11/21/03 rony zhang ziyi and maggie cheung ohh yeah!!! kind of weird plot though.^_^ 5 stars
11/04/03 anna crappy sentimental and cheap!! 1 stars
10/09/03 Ola Boring beyond belief - pompous fool of a movie 1 stars
10/06/03 ida it is great!!!!!!! & cool! 5 stars
10/06/03 Anders Hansson Beautiful fascism propaganda with no emotional depth at all. Truly ridiculous. 1 stars
10/01/03 J.C. Absolutely beautiful, probably my favourite movie ever 5 stars
9/30/03 Meryl Einstien yeeeeeaaaahhhhhhh, just one thing, why the hell didnt Jet Li just play Li Mu Bai? 4 stars
9/15/03 shane brilliant editing ! one of the year's best 4 stars
9/03/03 ray sooo nice!!! 5 stars
8/24/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng Good plot but weird. Sword fighting scenes are breath-taking. 3 stars
8/13/03 bob mckenzie surprising its not nominated for foreign film, has a leg up on Infernal Affairs 5 stars
8/07/03 Ingo Breathtaking. 5 stars
8/06/03 Simon Beautiful film. 5 stars
7/27/03 Greg Much better than Crouching Tiger! How Swift Thy Sword! 5 stars
7/14/03 C Tseng Beautiful cinematography propping up historically inaccurate fascist credo 3 stars
7/07/03 Gudrun Hamdy Very, very nice movie. 5 stars
7/05/03 Zargo looking forward to seeing it the way Zhang Yimou intended 5 stars
6/21/03 jim Walls One of the most beautiful looking films Ive ever seen-and wonderful action. 5 stars
6/21/03 Randy If you liked Crouching Tiger, you'll love this. 5 stars
6/16/03 nancix I love"Broken Sword"!! He is a "True Hero" and "Feminist"!! 5 stars
5/30/03 Nameful Beautiful! 5 stars
5/27/03 Jessica great film 5 stars
5/26/03 John Rander plot from Rashomon, message from Triumph of the Will 1 stars
5/22/03 jim Walls What a gorgeous film.This is one of the finest action films-eastern or western,ive ever see 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Aug-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Nov-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Nov-2004


Directed by
  Zhang Yimou

Written by
  Li Feng
  Bin Wang
  Zhang Yimou

Cast
  Jet Li
  Tony Leung Chiu Wai
  Maggie Cheung
  Zhang Ziyi
  Donnie Yen
  Daoming Chen



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